George Billis Gallery Presents works by Bonita Helmer

6 Nov

Opening November 5, 2011

Ohr Hatorah Synagogue-Mar Vista
11827 Venice Blvd.
Los Angeles, California


Four large paintings – THE FOUR WORLDS – have been installed in the sanctuary of the Ohr Hatorah Synagogue and Cultural Center in Mar Vista. Each individual work is composed of 4 panels and each piece measures 7’ x 12’ in total. There is one complete piece placed on each of the four walls of the sanctuary.
These pieces were painted during a four year period from 2000 – 2004. They are mystical pieces based on the Kabbalah and communicate to peoples of all backgrounds. They were designed to be installed in a hospital, university, public space and are meant to provide a bit of meditative peace in the midst of chaos; similar (but different) to the Rothko Chapel in Texas.

Ms. Helmer was raised in Los Angeles. She immerged, as an artist, in the mid-80’s, and has been exhibiting since then. Like the artist’s of the space and light movement, who came before her and into the present, she is influenced by the place where she lives. She is very aware of the unusual and filtered light of Los Angeles which affects the color palette that she uses. As stated in a catalogue essay by Marlena Donohue, “With dense, encrusted surfaces that are in turn painterly and sculptural, with fields of sonorous color that look both vaporous and calcareous… Using eccentric pigments and processes that are in turn tightly controlled and allowed to happen by chance, Helmer mixes water based acrylics and aerosol enamels. She lays down pigments and gloss media strategically, methodically, then lets these opposing oil based, water based materials cure and crack……” This process is intended to capture light on a two-dimensional surface.

Ms. Helmer’s recent work is based on theories of science laced with ancient mystical concepts. Many themes include images from Hubble telescope and space, theories in physics and sub-atomic particles and are reflected in her conceptual abstract paintings. She had a 10 year survey of this work at George Billis Gallery/LA in 2010 titled, “The Unseen Structures” The paintings, “The Four Worlds”, were created at the beginning of this ten year period. As time went on she became more and more immersed in the connections between the ancient philosophers and the new physics of today. Marlena Donohue says “Helmer notes that ironically enough, at its most sophisticated, science starts to look like a first cousin to ancient Eastern and Mid Eastern mystical traditions”.

In an excerpt from the artist’s statement she says, “According to the Kabbalah (the hidden mystical structure of the universe) the world is created as a great Tree of Existence. This great tree is composed of four separate worlds connected by the Jacob’s Ladder. The highest world being the World of Emanation, the next is the World of Creation, then the World of Formation and finally the World of Action (our world). The paintings read from right to left. Within the center of the structure of the Four Worlds (“the great tree”), the Kabbalah also describes levels of existence relating to the individual. These levels create the center pole and core of the sfirot system and are similar to the shakra system in Buddhism. Each painting also features one of the levels of existence found in the center pole. The complexity of the “charting” of the universe has been a challenge as an artist. I am fascinated with the similarities of The Four Worlds of the Kabbalah, other ancient spiritual systems, and contemporary theories of physics. The wisdom of the ancient masters, when documenting this “unseen” structure, which has many similarities to science today, never ceases to amaze me as I wander through the depths of understanding and try to capture these abstract concepts through images in paint. Ultimately, I wish to “intertwine” images from the actual, the mystical, and from the standpoint of physics. Intrinsically, all people are similar. I believe that from hidden and unseen structures of existence, a universal dialogue can emerge.”

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